Dr. Bill Atwood

Heroes of Normandy

The beach was covered with blood. It washed up on the shore with each wave. As brave soldiers found the grit within their guts to do the duty they were assigned, many were gunned down as soon as the front gate of the landing craft dropped into the water.

The Nazis were well entrenched in concrete bunkers above the beaches and they had the advantage of high ground. Our men had been in choppy waters coming across the English Channel. Not a wink of sleep and scared beyond belief. I don’t understand how somebody goes into battle knowing the odds and the dangers. They just do it.

Ten thousand died that day. Ten thousand families torn apart as the telegrams and visitations from chaplains coming to each of the homes to deliver the news. During those days of WWII, when neighbors saw the car drive onto their street, they knew the message wasn’t good. The mothers, fathers, and spouses who saw the car drive into the driveway knew what was coming before the knock at the door.

The grim realities of war are horrible but the events of June 6, 1944 will remain forever the greatest armed invasion the world will ever see. One thousand years from now the world will still honor the veterans of D-Day. As the surviving veterans of that campaign decrease in number due to age it becomes more and more important that they know their heroic deeds will never be forgotten.

In most discussions of military history, we hear about the actions of the admirals and the generals. Those officers in the command seat are making the tough decisions in the planning stages, along with giving orders to commence the operations knowing full well that they are sending every warrior into harm’s way and many to their early deaths. The angst they must live with would traumatize most people.

However, the real story of D-Day seems to rest with the common low-ranking soldier. Those are the guys who simply saw their duty to follow orders and carry out the assigned mission. When their best buddy was killed right next to him, he had to keep moving. No time to grieve and no time to dwell on it. The buddy’s death probably meant that the other guy had to assume the responsibilities of their friend to ensure the mission was moving forward.

Body parts flying or lying all around you. The stench of death hanging in the air, the sand covered in blood and guts, and still our brave veterans kept advancing toward the cliffs. Then there were the rangers at Point Du Hoc, who had to climb that cliff hand-over-hand up the ropes with full gear to tackle the Nazis at the top of the land mass, and the Fighting 29th pinned down on the beach being inspired by their commander telling them, “There are only two types of guys who are going to stay on the beach. Those who are already dead and those who are going to die.” The Fighting 29th blew up the concrete wall and stormed the bunkers.

The guys who parachuted into France were sitting ducks while floating down toward earth. Many were dropped in the wrong areas and they had to do what they could to get the mission accomplished. It really didn’t seem to matter where they landed because they figured the war was going to start for them wherever they happened to be.

Eventually the water of the channel ceased to be red with the blood of the Americans who came to liberate France and the rest of Europe. Eventually the sounds of battle were replaced by the sounds of equipment being moved onto the beaches from ships unloading at temporary docks designed to create a harbor on the coast of Normandy.

Eventually the battles moved across France and Europe toward Berlin and the end of the war. Eventually the war ended and the Americans who had come as liberators departed without claiming any territory except for the land needed to serve as the final resting spot for the men who had saved the world from the tyranny of Nazism.

The cost of freedom is blood. The beaches of Normandy were covered in American and Allied blood. The end of the Third Reich was assured by the heroes of Normandy.

May God grant them His eternal blessings and mercies.